A Piedfort coin looks like a normal coin but is typically twice as thick. The double thickness means twice the weight, increasing its investment value
A Piedfort coin is one that looks like a normal coin but is typically twice as thick. The double thickness means that (say) a silver coin has twice the amount (weight) of silver as a normal coin, increasing its investment value.
Modern Piedforts are not usually made for circulation but solely for collectors and investors. There are many people who prefer to collect the Piedfort versions of the current coinage.
Piedfort coins are well known to British silver coin collectors but we are now seeing them in gold too. Piedforts are struck with the same die so they look like normal coins with the same diameter but are thicker and therefore heavier. The current trend is for twice thickness, but the term can apply to coins that are any amount thicker than normal.
The word Piedfort is derived from the French meaning ‘heavy measure’ or ‘heavy foot’. As the word is French, it should be pronounced ‘Pee-ay-fore‘ but you’ll find most UK collectors and dealers pronouncing it phonetically. The word is often incorrectly spelled as Piefort, but as this misspelling has been in practice for over 100 years it has found to be acceptable.
The practice of making extra thickness coins is actually quite old, going back to the middle ages. Originally it was a French fashion that monarchs gave extra thick coins as gifts as a show of wealth, but in England we used them differently. At that time coins were minted at various locations around the country so when a new design was released the original engraver had to send out master samples (known as patterns) of the new coin to each of the regional mints. These patterns were made extra thick so not as to be confused with the actual circulation coins. The last Piedfort made for this reason was the 1588 sixpence.
Thick coins have been seen in other countries, usually minted for prestige purposes. There were very few English examples until 1982 when the Royal Mint made a 20p coin for public availability. This must have proved a success as the Royal Mint has issued Piedfort coins regularly since then. Fifty pence and pound Piedfort coins are very popular.
Piedfort coins generally copy the design of the usual circulation coins – they use the same dies – but are usually silver proof. Gold and Platinum make rarer appearances (in 2017 the Royal Mint introduced a Piedfort Gold Sovereign).
Piedfort coins therefore have an appeal to not only collectors but also to investors who appreciate the extra weight of precious metal.